Battling Breast Cancer in Harrisburg

Yesterday, I traveled to Harrisburg to participate in the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition’s Annual Conference. At the conference, I had the honor of being awarded the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition’s 2010 Pink Ribbon Award. This award is given to individuals and organizations who demonstrate outstanding leadership in breast cancer research, education, treatment and advocacy.  Martin’s Potato Chips, Inc. was also given the Pink Ribbon Award during the conference. I was joined by Pat Halpin-Murphy, President and Founder of the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition, as well as many survivors and advocates.

Breast cancer is a terrible disease affecting millions of men and women each year in the United States, and thousands of men and women in Pennsylvania. That is why it is so important to raise awareness of this disease, and hopefully one day find a cure. Throughout my career, I have been a strong breast cancer advocate: I fought to pass the Affordable Care Act to ensure all women access to preventive services and screenings without additional costs, including annual mammography screenings for women over age 40; and I have consistently joined with my colleagues to request additional funding for the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Cancer Institute and the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program.

My advocacy on this issue is only one piece of the overall effort, but I will continue my efforts in earnest until a cure is found. I am truly honored to have been able to participate in this important event and to have played a small role in bringing attention to this very important issue.

Breast Cancer

Helping to prevent bullying in schools

Today, I visited Joseph Pennell Academics Plus School in Philadelphia to discuss the bullying and harassment epidemic facing our schools.  I went to discuss the Safe Schools Improvement Act (S. 3739), which aims to help prevent bullying in schools.  I was joined by PA Rep. Mark Cohen, representatives from the School District of Philadelphia and school leaders on a tour of the school to observe the initiatives they have in place to help teachers and students prevent bullying.

Bullying in Schools

Bullying and harassment affect millions of students every year. While we do have federal laws to provide support to promote school safety, there is nothing currently in place to comprehensively and expressly address issues of bullying or harassment.  I applaud the work being done in the School District of Philadelphia to combat this epidemic.  I introduced the Safe Schools Improvement Act to help ensure that every child receives a quality education that builds self-confidence.  This bill is a crucial step towards ensuring that no child is so afraid to go to school that he or she stays home for fear of bullying.

At Pennell, I learned about some of the great steps being taken by the school district. I visited with 4th graders who were learning new ways to resolve conflicts and to get along.  After a discussion with leaders from the school, I joined the kids for structured recess,î which helps children to learn through play. Structured recess has reduced injuries and bullying, and students are able to return to the classroom ready to learn.  It is a wonderful tool for learning.  

We must make sure that all children can attend a safe school, so they may one day reach their potential.  I ask that you support my efforts to raise awareness about bullying by having conversations with your children and grandkids about the importance of mutual respect.

Drought Warning for Southwest and East-central Pennsylvania

This September, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) issued a drought warning for 24 counties throughout southwest and east-central Pennsylvania.  A drought warning asks for residents to voluntarily reduce their water use by 10-15%.  For the remaining 43 counties, the PADEP issued a drought watch, asking residents to reduce their non-essential water use by 5%.

Pennsylvanians can significantly reduce water usage.  By taking simple actions around the house, every person can make a difference.  Some of these ways include doing the laundry with only a full load of clothing or running only a full load of dishes in the dishwasher, taking brief showers, installing water-saving devices on showers and faucets, and repairing leaks.  It is very important that people proactively reduce water consumption during these drought warnings and drought watches.

To protect Pennsylvania farmers during this drought, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced natural disaster assistance for those hit hard by the drought.  Farmers in 38 counties are eligible for assistance.  More information is available through local Farm Service Agency offices or at

Water is one of our Nation’s most valuable assets.  Though it is vital to life, it is not an endless resource.  Protecting both water quality and quantity is an important priority for which I will continue to work.

The 24 counties under a drought warning are Allegheny, Beaver, Bedford, Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Fayette, Franklin, Fulton, Greene, Huntingdon, Lackawanna, Lawrence, Lehigh, Luzerne, Mercer, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia, Pike, Schuylkill, Somerset, and Washington.

The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

Stink BugThe Brown Marmorated Stink Bug is an invasive species that came to the United States about ten years ago from Asia.  Like many invasive species, the stink bug is believed to have come from overseas in packing crates.  Interestingly, the first stink bug was captured in Allentown, Pennsylvania in 1998.

This year, the stink bug population has spiked dramatically.  Experts believe that this is due to a warmer than normal winter and spring.  Stink bugs are a nuisance in families’ homes, and are harmful to farmers’ crops.  Stink bugs damage crops, such as fruit, by sucking out the juice and injecting saliva.  Stink bugs leave pockmarks and spots on the affected crops, making them unmarketable.  The threat that stink bugs pose to Pennsylvania farm products should not be underestimated.  Several research projects are underway to find methods to defeat the bug, but if Stink Bugthe current situation continues, more work needs to be done to protect our food crops from devastation.

People can reduce the risk of stink bugs invading their homes and businesses by following many of the same practices used to increase energy efficiency.  Helpful actions include screening windows and attic vents, weather-stripping doors and caulking cracks around windows, doorframes and pipes.

Safeguarding consumers from imported honey

I believe that the establishment of a national standard of identity for honey is important in order to protect our Nation’s domestic honey industry and to protect American consumers.  The United States imports nearly 70% of its honey.  Imported honey is a significant ingredient in a wide variety of food products, including bread, cereal, and beverages.  Honey is also an ingredient in health and beauty products. 

Some foreign honey importers have developed schemes to circumvent American antidumping policies.  These schemes are serious.  During August 2010, eleven individuals and six corporations were indicted by federal officials for allegedly participating in an international conspiracy to illegally import honey from China that was mislabeled as coming from other countries to avoid antidumping duties.  They were also importing honey that was adulterated with antibiotics not approved for use in honey production.  In order to ensure the safety of America’s food supply and protect consumers, the establishment of a national standard of identity for honey is imperative.  When Americans purchase honey, they should expect a product made by honeybees, not filled with syrup additives or contaminants.

In July 2009, I gathered the bipartisan support of eleven other Senators and sent a letter to Margaret Hamburg, the Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  The letter urged the FDA to adopt a national standard of identity for honey as soon as possible. I have repeatedly called on the FDA to adopt a national standard of identity for honey.  The FDA should listen to the bipartisan support for this effort and give people confidence in what they eat.

Additionally, during the past two years, three states have enacted their own standards of identity.  If producers need to make honey to different specifications, these different standards would be a burden.  The FDA should adopt a federal standard in order to lift this burden from the states and avoid confusion.

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